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How to Express Consistent Boundaries with Your Children

by Jim Burns, Ph.D.

One of my favorite Bible verses is Proverbs 22:6. If you’re a parent, you may already have it committed to memory (or, if not, perhaps you should).

It reads, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it!”

As parents, we need to remember that principle . . . especially as it pertains to the parenting strategy you and your spouse choose. (If you’re a single parent, you’ll need the help and influence of others who can support you in your efforts to stick with being consistent with your discipline.)

“Strategy,” you say? That’s right. Discipline is a training process . . . both for kids and their parents. Those who try to raise kids without one are confirming yet another pearl of conventional wisdom—“Those who fail to plan are planning to fail!”

Kids need consistent discipline from their parents in order to both survive and thrive. That means clearly defined limits and expectations clearly articulated to the children by the parents in ways that all parties involved understand.

The vast majority of kids in crisis I talk to tell me that their rebellion began because they did not clearly understand their family limits and expressed expectation.

In all honesty, when this happens, it’s usually not the kids’ fault. Rather, the communication breakdown is the result of the parents throwing too many mixed messages at their children . . . and then wondering why their kids won’t behave.

Of course, the payoff for parents who discipline consistently doesn’t seem like much of a reward at the time. Here are the reflections of one wise mother who understands that consistent discipline is necessary though not always easy:

“You don’t love me!” How many times have your kids laid that one on you? And how many times have you, as a parent, resisted the urge to tell them how much?

Someday, when my children are old enough to understand the logic that motivates a mother, I’ll tell them.

I loved you enough to bug you about where you were going, with whom and what time you would get home.

I loved you enough to be silent and let you discover on your own that your handpicked ‘best friend’ was really a creep.

I loved you enough to stand over you for two hours while you cleaned your bedroom (a job that would have taken me fifteen minutes).

I loved you enough to not make excuses for your lack of respect or your bad manners.

I loved you enough to ignore “what the other mother” did.

I loved you enough to figure you would lie about the party chaperone but forgive you for it . . . after discovering I was right.

I loved you enough to let you stumble, fall and fail so that you could learn to stand alone.

I loved you enough to accept you for who you are—and not who I wanted you to be.

But most of all, I loved you enough to say ‘no’ when you hated me for it. That was the hardest part of all.”

Discipline consistently, Mom and Dad. It’s one of the best ways I know to show your children that you love them!

Excerpted from The 10 Building Blocks for a Happy Family by Jim Burns, Ph.D.

© HomeWord Used by permission.

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